By Tech. Sgt. Stacy Foster
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
That’s how long it takes for Colorado’s Flight for Life crew to get in their helicopter and get off the pad.
That’s how long it takes for the crew to reach Schriever Air Force Base.
Fifteen minutes after Schriever first responders requested a mock-medical evacuation of a critical patient, a Flight for Life helicopter crew from Penrose St. Francis, Colorado Springs touched down on the base’s snow-covered soccer field Feb. 10.
Flight for Life began in 1972 with a single helicopter based out of Denver. It is now a regional program providing critical care transport with four helicopters, three ambulances and two airplanes, responding to emergencies in nine states.
A typical Flight for Life helicopter crew consists of a pilot, paramedic and a registered nurse.
“Paramedics and RNs are sometimes interchanged,” said Megan Hawbaker, Flight for Life RN. “Either are able to do quick assessments on the patient and stabilize them for transport.”
In the case of Schriever’s exercise scenario, the patient was the victim of a shooting that occurred in the Airman and Family Readiness Center.
Richard Fultz, lead fireman with the Schriever Fire Department, served as the incident commander for the exercise shooting scenario.
“Once Security Forces has secured the shooter and the area, medical personnel respond on scene,” he said. “They will then determine the severity of injuries.”
If the patient has any possible life-threatening injuries such as burns, loss of limb, or in this case, gunshot wounds, Flight for Life crews are placed on standby. Once the determination is made that the injury is time-sensitive, the crew springs into action.
“The call comes in through our communications center in Denver,” said Ms. Hawbaker. “We then get the green light at Penrose and our goal is to be in the air in less than five minutes.”
After the scenario ended, Schriever first responders were given a tour of the helicopter and equipment. They also discussed how to prepare a landing zone for the aircraft.
“They explained how we could hose down the ground in dusty situations and in this case, clear out excess snow,” said Mr. Fultz. “These things will increase visibility for the pilots.”
According to Colorado’s Flight for Life Web site, the pilots average 29 years of rotary wing experience, 6,550 flight hours, 350 hours of night vision goggle time and have worked at Flight for Life Colorado for about nine years.
Lead Pilot Bill Bennett has been piloting Flight for Life helicopters for more than 12 years and flew helicopters for the Army for 26 years.
“Most of the pilots are prior military,” he said. “It’s nice to have that overlap and continuity working for us.”
Mr. Bennett also added that in addition to making a difference and saving lives, he feels blessed to get to fly around the Rocky Mountains.
“I have one of the best jobs in the world,” Mr. Bennett said.